The dead linger. That’s what they do. The living linger too.
They linger on in stories from memories, waiting, for a word. A datapiece of a person sits inside that box you purchased. And you don’t know whom all yet. You unwrap this divergent world, this world of GlassReel technology. You set the translucent temples overear and unfold stories as a program-teller determines visual fates by minute calculations.
It is a world where the mind may manipulate materiality, or be manipulated.
Some stories are shorter to tell than smoking a ciggarette. Some tales are too long to retain any interest. And yet, all that I’ve come across in my long labor for TraumaTrackers I place in my personal Memory Bank with the accounting department. I cherish them all, terrible, terrific, totally.
We live in narratives. Our world is composed of words. We recreate reality with terms, yet the summation of our terminology does not form reality, it only reduces it. And people pass like the pages of an unsung epic, a nameless epic we call Living, and Dying. People perceive the void as voiceless. It’s my duty to convince them otherwise. There is no void. In the end, we are stories.
There is no past to solely exist in. There are relative presents. And an uncountable number of realities exist in your GlassReel package. But you knew that. Yet, I’d bet, you didn’t know this.
That, despite death’s connotation, it’s endless.
It’s no easy job. Trauma-Tracking, it’s tireless.
Inside GlassReels, you may live many vicarious lives, and die, many extrapersonal deaths. Will you choose belief? By virtue of purchasing those GR-spectacles you already have made a choice.
Press ENTER, at your own risk.
Audiolog Entry 22148-M:
Hello. TraumaTrackers. Aldo speaking.
(A middle-aged man whispers)
Yeah yeah. Hey, what kinda gun would you use on a dino.
What kind of gun.
Where are you sir.
Are you alone.
Maybe. Shit. I keep hearing a rustling.
You’ll be alright.
How can you be so sure. Can you get me a gun.
I’m sorry, sir. That’s not my department.
(he curses under his breath)
Who’d I call.
TraumaTrackers. This is Aldon.
Listen Aldon, can you redirect me.
I can’t authorize a transfer. Is it a safari simulator.
Right. We opted out of the guided tour program.
Take off your goggles. That’s my best advice for you.
I can’t, man. Ah! I do not wanna lose. Not like that.
We gotta big bet goin. On who could live longest in the jungle.
I’m sorry, sir. I’m afraid, for your sake, that you’ve already lost.
I tell people this. But they don’t listen. Or they listen. But they don’t learn. Death is not didactic. Though sometimes I feel pretty superior saying stuff about death.
I took this mandatory six-week training course on dealing with GlassReel-based deaths. For five or six hours they’d sit me down in a dark room and show images. Plugging me in, strapping me down, and delivering emotional stimulus.
I remember the Emoticontroller’s words before it began: The ills of all may prepare paths for the betterment of one. The ill of one may prepare a path for the betterment of all.
Then the Emoticontroller slapped some pensiviness intravenously, I perceived, because I began to curl my beard. Then, they began to play, for me, all of their Preperational Programs.
And so they showed me images. I squirmed, fastened across the chest by black belts, but my mind could not move. The greatest tangible torment is through mentality. Thus they presented ancient torture techniques, gouged eyes, pulled toenails, stonings, suffocation, quartering, bodies blown to shreds in slow-motion, bleed-outs, rapes, animal cruelties and unending falls from unimaginable heights.
You can’t blink any of it away. You believe you can repress it. You manage to forget, a mere few.
You see, you see it, and you know it’s not real. Not at first you don’t. These are scenes from another time, another memory of a momentary debasement of benevolence, another world.
And then, an intercom announces: This could be the world again and anew if we do nothing. Peacekeepers, and specifically Trackers, protect people from the malicious moments in their minds. We set an image to reset the seer. We show truth. Traumatic experiences promulgate wickedness. Madness remakes the world in its own tortured image. Evil ideas breed evil acts. Peace requires conflict with chaotic consciousness’. We fight an evil image with better images.
In order to overcome the trauma of others you must undergo a selfsame experience. In order to treat, in order to take trauma away, we initiate an infliction for you. Intellectually, you may remain removed; but physically, every muscle of your mind, every nuerotransmitted thread of what you’ve considered your being, knows, knows without question and without answer, that what awaits this world, this precious present time in human history, if we do not subdue ruthlessness, and uphold sooth, is destructive chaos.
Truth is not in the eyes of any beholder.
But now I know some instances are beyond the Board of Programmers. Some instances are so strange. Some instances they can’t conjure. Some instances they can’t simply strip into an image. Some instances shake you, rattle you, really they do. Some feelings can’t be faked or formulated.
Audiolog Entry 66730-F:
Hello. TraumaTrackers. Aldo speaking.
(I repeat this twice to the sound of staggered breath)
Aldo. What’s that short for. Aldo.
Aldon. Tell me, what’s on your mind mam.
That’s an odd name.
It wouldn’t seem so odd if it was your name.
(The flick of a BIC and the inhale of smoke)
What is your name miss, if you don’t mind my asking.
And if I do.
This call is completely confidential. Whatever you need to say is entirely between us. I promise.
Fine. But I don’t wanna tell you my name.
That’s fine. If you only care to talk that is okay too.
I think if Aldon was my name I’d still think it odd. It’d be odd for a woman at least, you’d admit. All names are an oddity to me, anyway. We’re not merely names are we?
Okay. I agree. Is there anything else you may like to talk about.
Do you know of a story entitled The Metamorphosis.
By Franz Kafka.
No mam. Can’t say as I have. What’s it about.
A traveling salesman named Gregor Samsa awakens to find he’s transformed overnight into a monstrous insect. Does that interest you, Aldo. I want to know.
Yes. It does.
I’ve never had an overactive imagination before.
I know what you’re going to say.
Okay. What am I going to say.
If we both know what you’re going to say why say it?
Because it could be important.
(she hangs up)
I never knew if the unnamed woman in my audiolog died from what we call Extra-Sensory Traumatic Imagery, or ETSI. ETSI is a fancy acronym for what happens when a mind is unable to account for its own, seemingly crazy, recreations of reality.
Essentially, ETSI is an image made materially by the mind.
ETSI is the mind inserting itself onto the machine, overpowering it. Even lifelong users of GlassReels are not exempt from ETSI. In fact, they’re more prone to falling victim to the fictions they insert themselves in. They begin to see unreality as precious, indispensable, a promise of a world that will never exist. We must take care not to let these minds wander thus. The more powerful presentation bestowed upon a perciever, the more terrific, or traumatic, the experiences.
The mind does not create. The mind recreates. And in instances of ETSI the mind can not discern between the body, and the mind. It ceases to differentiate between what a mind might receive as real, and what is actually real. Hence, I am, and it is, the image placed before me, not merely a programmed perception.
The images inflicted upon her were not preprogrammed into a GlassReel device. The mystery is how her mind constructed this image, when it ceased to communicate with the external world. In her case, she was afflicted, and acted out, due to dire details from a fictional story.
She read the story about the man named Gregor, metamorphosed into a monster. She wore GlassReels that read the lines, and made an image to correspond. She envisioned the story around herself, and then, she could not escape it. Setting the story down did not change her.
The woman, who would not name herself, saw her feet flatten into several, sharp, segmented legs, on her bed, thorax necking the phone, limbs grown to grotesque proportion, nightgown spoiled by slime, and skin shifting and breaking apart into an armored exoskeleton. A gargantuan bug. The woman was monstrous. Simply because she’d read a silly little story. But it’s more complex than that. When the tale was made flesh, she called our number on the back of her GlassReel’s box. I don’t know how she did so without five fingers, but she must’ve managed.
There she was, no longer herself, in bed, smoking a ciggerette with pincers, fouling her sweaty bedsheets, and yet, audibly at least, remained so damned calm, plaintive yes, but damned calm.
These stories, which the mind manages to program, produce the ETSI effect.
I let Paul at the adjacent stall listen to my audiolog. Paul peered over our cubicle divider and said She probably offed herself that morning. Once you start seeing yourself as a giant cockroach, that’s penultimate psychosis. I mean, that’s it.
He cocked an air-gun, and said, BLAM-O.
The fact that she didn’t strip the GR-specs from her face the second she saw that shit. Shit. Insecta mommasita believed her body was bugged baby. Nada you could do, Aldo. Nothing, man.
Sure, I said.
He walked over in our drab-blue uniform, and I wheeled around to face him. His hair is like red building bricks with mortar dandruff. For some reason, as he juggled a stress ball in his wiry white fingers, I wanted to punch him in the gut, one hand on the swivel-seat lever moving me up with the momentum of all my weight impacting his stomach.
She let you see.
Didn’t you listen to the audio.
Yeah, he huffed. Cut you off before you could decode her. Damn shame. I would’ve wanted to see that big bee in bed, trying to sting herself into a vegetative state. Maybe I’d make her become a banana. Paul laughed. A damned vegetable. Now that’s some Reel shit you don’t see everyday.
That’s against the rules, I think.
Nothing’s against the rules Aldon. And then he asked me whether I would like to attend a PM party after work. Said Slyvia was going, because he knew I needed encouragement to go. I agreed. Paul asked whether I wanted to carpool. I said nope. Paul doesn’t own a car, and I didn’t want to drive him.
That day I got the address at mealtime. The PM party started at eight sharp, at Lewis’ house.
I had work to do yet. Got a call from a woman who said her son scaled the roof, climbing out of his window onto the backpatio awning, and threatened to jump into the pool. She said she was standing in the backyard yelling at him. But the boy was deaf. What should I do she asked. Can you come help me here.
Glancing at my watch, then at my GlassReels, I decided to dive into the orange bar of coordinates flashing on the lenses, placed the frames over my eyes, pressed ENTER on the VisuaLay screen, fingered my authorization code, then ended up in their big hot tub in my grey, blue-striped suit.
I turned the bubbles on. The woman glanced back at me in terror.
There was her son, standing twenty feet above algae-water. The kid was eight or nine, I’d guess. Two teeth in the front, big caterpillar-grooved gums. He wore a white bathing cap and big goggles, toes dangling on the edge of their awning. His mother stood below, between him and the pool. He would survive the fall. Nevertheless, all I did was lay a ladder from the pebbled-pooldeck up unto the patioshade, and told the mother to climb to her son and stop shedding them crocodile tears.
Audiolog Entry 99458-D:
Hello. TraumaTrackers. Aldo Speaking.
I thought Paul was my account representative.
He was. I am assigned to you now Mr. (a pause as I check Paul’s previous, sparsely informed database) ah, yes, Mr. Frank Young. What seems to be the problem.
Do I have to go through this again.
No sir. I’m here. I have your coordinates.
Trust me man. You don’t wanna see this shit.
It’s my job to.
No no. You can’t. You just can’t.
Mr. Young. Have you attempted to shatter the mirrors.
Oh. God. No no no. I won’t. I can’t.
This is why Paul was taken off your account. Don’t worry. I won’t make you break the mirrors. All I want you to do is smile. Don’t shatter the faces. Smile at them. Yes.
That’s right. Smile, and they will, I think, smile back.
They don’t smile man. They don’t even have a sense of humor.
Okay. I’ll try.
Don’t try to smile. Smile.
That’s your damned advice. Just smile. Like an idiotic.
Yes. Just smile like an idiot. It won’t seem so silly after.
Last week I was working on one of Paul’s failed cases. He didn’t ask me to. It came rolling down the bureaucratic wastebasket-cart of basketcases. Paul didn’t know I inserted myself into this girl’s GlassReels. Nor did the girl…
TO BE CONTINUED